Fire safety is all about risk. The probability of a serious fire in any building may be low, but the potential consequences are enormous. ROCKWOOL insulation products are often used as a dedicated fire protection to parts of building structure and industrial equipment.
Unwanted fires may have multiple consequences, damage to human life and health, property damage, business interruption, and environmental pollution. Due to lack of data, available fire statistics cannot be expected to tell the full story. Some indications of the consequences of fires can be found for example on this site: www.firesafeeurope.org
The most tragic consequence of fire incidents is any loss of life. According to an analysis of death certificates carried out by the National Fire Protection Association, more than 50% of fire victims die form the effects of smoke inhalation. Additional 23% lost their lives due to a combination of smoke inhalation and burns1.
ROCKWOOL products contribute to fire safety in a multitude of ways:
- Generally as a non-combustible core material, the contribution to the spread of fire is negligible or none.
- ROCKWOOL products only marginally – if ever – generate toxic smoke and particles.
- ROCKWOOL insulation products are often used as a dedicated fire protection to parts of building structure and industrial equipment.
Fire safety as a legal requirement
Fire safety is primarily a legal requirement, or rather a set of legal requirements, laid down for almost all types of buildings.
The basic principles about fire safety are defined worldwide in a similar manner and typically comprise the elements which may be found as the basis for the European definition of fire safety, as outlined in the Construction Product Regulation of the European Union.
According to the European Construction Products Regulation, every building must be built so that:
- It will not collapse for a specified time period;
- It will limit the generation and spread of fire and smoke;
- It will not spread fire to other buildings;
- It will enable escape or rescue of occupants;
- It will not possess threat to rescue teams.
This definition covers fire development at different stages, as well as different fire scenarios under which buildings may be involved in a fire.
Like many other legal documents worldwide, the regulation is focussed on saving human lives. Safe evacuation of people from a burning building is one of the most important elements; However it is possible only if the building itself is not a threat to evacuation or rescue operations, and it is definitely made easier if the other fire safety requirements listed above are taken into serious consideration.
Apart from universal legal approach demanding primarily human life safety, other approaches are possible, comprising protection of property, business operations, or vital industrial equipment. Safety from environmental damage during or after a fire is getting an ever increasing attention.
A non-combustible building structure is generally assumed not to contribute to the spread of fire and smoke.
Reaction to fire
Majority of ROCKWOOL stone wool insulation products are classified as Euroclass A1 – The highest class for non-combustible products that do not contribute to a fire.
The Euroclasses are linked directly to the perceived hazard in a reference fire scenario — a fire in a room —and the large scale test modelling of this scenario was chosen by the European Commision to be the ISO 9705 Room Corner test which is the type of test used also in some worldwide insurance approval schemes.
The reaction to fire class can be different for different products and materials.
Although Euroclass ratings provide information about smoke intensity and production of burning droplets, these are measured using a relatively small fire source (31 kW) and the tested constructions are positioned vertically – both conditions limit the usefulness of such information; the rating depends on the way the product is installed during the tests.
Evaluation of smoke toxicity is not part of reaction to fire classification criteria.
1 Source: John R. Hall, Jr., Fire Analysis and Research Division, National Fire Protection Association, March 2011